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News and Analysis (7/29/08)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Following a weekend of terrorist bombings which India accused Pakistan of involvement, skirmishing at the Kashmiri Line of Control brings about urgent talks:

Columnist Eugene Robinson denounces White House memos calling for a sort of “middle ground on torture” as a “hideous affront to this nation’s honor and values“:

Muslim leaders aim to promote interreligious understanding, deconstruct misconceptions, and diminish the influence of extremism:

After February’s peace treaty broke down almost immediately, new fragile truce between Yemeni government and al Houthi rebels also looks unlikely to hold:

Business development is driving economic liberalization where the government fails, and while most yearn for peace, Syrians still see Israel as an imperialist and predatory state:

In Fatah-Hamas power struggle, threats received by journalists from both sides are a “flagrant violation of the freedom of expression” that “harms the reputation of the Palestinians”:

Ahead of a court case that is part of the nationalist-Islamist power struggle, Kurds resent accusations of responsibility for recent attacks, instead attributing the violence to nationalist extremists:

In Indonesia, a scuffle between students in a dormitory and locals was over disturbing behavior rather than religion:

News and Analysis (7/28/08)

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Reversing original statement claiming small-arms fire, the U.S. military admits soldiers panicked and fired upon a car speeding to work in secure zone:

Sunni attacks in Iraq continue to demonstrate upheaval over the Shiite prominence and Kurdish claims to Kirkuk:

Citing last month’s presumed-Pakistani bombing at Indian embassy in Afghanistan, some are convinced ISI is also involved in Ahmedabad and Gujarat bombings…

…while others more focused on domestic sources of the attacks stress the importance of addressing the country’s Muslim-Hindu divide:

Finger-pointing in recent bombing overshadows Palestinian reconciliation talks:

Separatist Kurds are presumed responsible for explosions yesterday in Turkey:

New agreement with Muslim rebel group affords expansion of autonomous territory:

Medical results disproving sodomy charges against Malaysian leader finally come a month later, wearing away the public’s trust in police investigations:

French Muslims still enjoy Islam and secular society, despite highly publicized events that give the impression otherwise:

News and Analysis (7/25/08)

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Guantanamo detainee who provided information is now charged by the US in a court that does not recognize the right against self-incrimination:

As sectarian strife continues, new unity government in Lebanon tackles the issue of militia weapons:

Iraqi President calls for inter-religious dialogue and encourages Christian refugees to return to Iraq to be part of the social framework:

Fearing sectarian political interference, International Olympic Committee bars most Iraqi athletes from the games:

Jordanian queen uses the Internet to engage with the West and promote moderate Islam:

Turning the tables in “Great Game” tradition, insurgent groups may now be using attacks by foreign forces to eliminate their opponents:

Uncertainty surrounding the new coalition government, judicial crisis, and Taliban insurgency drives investors’ fears:

Despite “restoration” of diplomatic relations, the closing of a state-owned Iranian station is just one indication of lingering enmity:

News and Analysis (7/24/08)

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Britain would like the current Hamas-Israel ceasefire to inspire major world powers to engage in dialogue with the militant group:

China’s has exaggerated Olympics terror threat to justify harsh control in Muslim Uighur territory:

Muslim Brotherhood declares law dealing with children’s legal status and health issues a move to force non-Islamic standards on Egyptians:

State-owned oil shippers cut off oil flows to Switzerland in response to assault accusations against leader Muamma Gaddafi’s son:

Despite years of improved relations between the two countries, Pakistan threatens a rebirth of its arms race if US-India deal over nuclear energy goes through…

…while the US finances F-16s meant to counter Afghan insurgency, but are in fact more useful against India:

Senior counternarcotics official finds Afghanistan’s government deeply involved with protecting the opium trade:

Brothers establishing HIV/Aids education and prevention programs are detained, despite cooperating with the government and religious leaders:

News and Analysis (7/23/08)

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Sectarian disputes over the oil-rich Kirkuk province paralyze the Iraqi electoral process…

… meanwhile the US ignores the underlying political and socio-economic problems, using military gains as a standard for success in the country:

Faced with the real-world situation in Afghanistan, Canadians focus on building infrastructure and shifting security responsibilities to locals:

Concern over increased civilian casualties causes American forces to take extra care in unplanned attacks and practice patience in capturing Taliban:

Former national security advisers fear keeping force as an ultimatum in Iranian nuclear discussions might legitimize an Israeli attack or commit the US to unaffordable action:

A departure of Palestinian security as a response to persistent Israeli attacks during peace talks would unleash armed political groups:

Moderate who attended peace talks and agreed to ceasefire with Ethiopia is pushed to the side in an Somali extremist’s power grab:

As risk-takers start to rebuild accommodations, Iraq’s tourism minister looks first to attract determined religious pilgrims:

News and Analysis (7/22/08)

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Regardless of the next American administration, Arabs do not expect a change in US Middle East policy:

Recent ceasefire provides a window of opportunity to address Gaza’s deteriorating waste infrastructure:

Residents fear Fallujah leaders may be using threats to security to advance their own political interests in an upcoming election:

Although a coherent Taliban policy is lacking in Islamabad, some fear a US intervention could draw more support for extremists:

Kurdish political party declares the arrest of its leader unconstitutional because permanent “emergency powers,” rather than judicial action was the instrument for government detention…

…and members of Egypt’s main opposition group are arrested for possession of banned literature:

As GE pledges commercial finance to the Middle East and Africa, an Abu Dhabi company hopes to become one of its largest shareholders in the open market:

Reports indicate foreign fighters are joining local insurgency in Somalia:

News and Analysis (7/21/08)

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Ahmadinejad sticks with uranium enrichment program, but says the recent discussions with world powers were “a step ahead”…

… meanwhile US Secretary of State Rice criticizes Iran’s “small talk about culture” and threatens new sanctions, and the British Prime Minister, keeping Israeli interests in mind, threatened Iran with “growing isolation…

…but Brown also denounces Israeli expansion on the Palestinian front, promising British aid and an international investment conference to bolster the Palestinian economy:

In light of food shortages, water-starved nations struggle with nutritional self-sufficiency, and consider importing from fertile but politically unstable neighbors:

During US congressional delegation visit, Afghans express both optimism and distrust over US involvement in security and development issues:

Indonesian soldiers question authority and demand official orders to keep the military free from actors with personal agendas:

4000 Mauritanians returning from exile struggle to reestablish ownership of their properties:

News and Analysis (7/18/08)

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Amid concerns over growing conflicts, recent deals and discussions across the Middle East signify foreign policy reassessments, giving some reason to be optimistic:

As increasing numbers of US lawmakers visit Iraq in order to understand current conditions and policy problems…

…the US government recognizes the limits of sheer military might and is now deploying a diverse force of civilian federal employees to help Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction efforts:

Saying that Hamas-associated charities help the political movement grow, Israel shuts down a school:

Bedouins, Palestinians, and Israeli Arabs are among those most recently arrested in Israel for alleged links to Al Qaeda and planning attacks:

Rising inflation is causing some Gulf states to turn to ineffective government aid programs:

Indonesia strives to include more women in the work environment, but chooses employment quotas as the means to achieve that goal:

Trade Facilitation Ideas Aim to Help Those Who Need Trade Most–But will it work in the very worst of scenarios?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

On July 11th I had the privilege of attending CATO’s Capitol Hill briefing on the merits of trade facilitation for encouraging economic growth. on behalf of the Minaret of Freedom Institute. Cato trade policy analyst Daniel Ikenson and World Bank economist Simeon Djankov touted trade facilitation (TF) policies—including streamlined administrative procedures and infrastructure—as beneficial for both industrialized countries as well as developing ones. The benefits of trade for developing countries are unquestionable. I agree, it would therefore make sense to pursue trade facilitation policies geared at making the most of that beneficial trade.

However, from what I gathered from Friday’s presentation, Ikenson and Djankov consider trade facilitation the decisive factor in a country’s ability to develop, and I wonder how well the argument for trade facilitation stands when the very countries needing the benefits of trade most lack in the first place those policies and infrastructures Ikenson and Djankov suggest they amend. Take, for example, Afghanistan: years of ongoing war and instability have certainly mutilated structures of both trade and government.

First, the administrative structure, where it exists at all, is fractious at best. Charged with the assisting the reconstruction of a new Afghan government, the U.S. has stressed security issues and thus promoted a strong, Kabul-centered government. In an ethnically divided country where regional rule has historically prevailed, it comes as no surprise years later to see the lack of affinity afforded a central government that has too often resorted to corruption and favoritism. With such little confidence in a national government, how can one expect any liberal internal trade policies pursued to be uniform and, more importantly, respected?

Second, after years of war, there exists little infrastructure at all to speak of, and any improvements would quite literally be made from the ground up. Furthermore, the geography of the country itself creates additional challenges to a policy of development. The Hindu Kush mountain range, located in the very middle of the country, is the main geographic feature inhibiting transportation of goods. An internal road system is lacking. Afghanistan does have a highway network encircling the mountain range. However, much of the so dubbed the “Ring Road” passes through Taliban territory, and after years of war and neglect conditions have deteriorated so much that one can only drive 10 km/hour in some sections.

Simply speaking, the geographic and political situation of Afghanistan is a trading nightmare.

While the U.S. has contributed $37 million toward a bridge spanning the Panj River to facilitate trade between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, ease of trade between Afghanistan’s North and South areas has yet to be addressed. While top-down security operations are underway to counter the rebirth of Taliban forces, resistance is still growing and conditions are still not friendly for trade. While public/private partnerships might help build new infrastructure, it is hard to imagine that the average Afghan with a $1000 GDP per capita can afford to contribute their income to the massive government expenditures required by Ikenson and Djankov’s recommendations. While foreign investment, as an alternative, might contribute to the construction needed, it is hard to imagine still that any company in its right mind would invest in a nation plagued by instability, or that any foreign government would find reason to voluntarily abet easier shipment of Afghanistan’s opium exports.

So how would one even begin to consider trade facilitation policies? Citing Robert Guest’s experience following a beer truck that was horrendously stalled in Cameroon due to inefficient checkpoints and corrupt officers, Ikenson obviously read The Shackled Continent. However, he must have forgotten the take-home message: a country needs good governance.

The opium poppy is not a safe crop option for the Afghan farmer. Cultivation of it continues, however, because it is simply more profitable than grapes in the current market. Bad government is the same way. It, too, continues because someone along the line profits. In the case of Afghanistan, it is the American-installed group ruling Kabul that stands to gain. In my conversation with Djankov after the lecture, he insisted that Afghanistan has untapped opportunities in dried fruits and vineyards, as well as natural resources in marble and gold. If anyone should ever expect those to be viable economic activities, they should first consider a government with a federalist-style configuration and strong local autonomy to answer questions of security and government accountability.

Trade facilitation is important but it is by no means a comprehensive solution to developmental challenges. Rather, a base of infrastructure and governance must first exist before one can expect TF policies to be implemented fruitfully.

Kasia Rada
Minaret of Freedom Institute Intern

News and Analysis (7/17/08)

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

As Hizbullah supporters see it, the recent release of detainees proves that Israel only understands force:

US Secretary of Defense cites military performance of civilian tasks and lack of attention to economic and political growth as the chief reasons for failure in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Iranian investment in Afghanistan creates industrial improvements, but US officials see it as a sort of proxy war maneuver:

Disputes between urban politicians and tribal leaders demonstrate different interpretations of government:

Saudi oil money is directed toward the construction of brand new cities to prepare for a post-petroleum economy and to attract science and research:

Increasing debt burden and inflation in Pakistan parallels growing uncertainty on the political scene:

Released on bail, Anwar Ibrahim now demands a copy of the police report containing what looks to be politically conceived allegations against him:

Egyptian man in Spanish Al Qaeda-inspired group will not be convicted twice for the same involvement in a terrorist organization: